If you’d asked me years ago, when I was working as a career nanny, how far apart I’d want my kids to be age-wise, I would have said three years.
The idea was that with a three-year gap, there would be just one kid in diapers at a time, but they’d be close enough in age to be able to do many activities together. A smaller age gap meant a lot more work at once while the kids were small, and a larger one meant that they might not share many interests in childhood.
Of course, with every child bringing his or her own personality and preferences to the family, none of that is guaranteed, and I knew that, but still thought I wanted a three-year age gap.
When we began our adoption process for a second child, I was fairly certain I’d get that gap or close to it. Boy, am I ever glad I was wrong. Because for our family? A five-year age gap has turned out to be perfect. I’ll tell you why.
First, our older daughter, Zinashi, was able to understand what was happening as we waited for Elvie to come and truly felt like a part of the process. We were able to talk a lot about what life would be like once the baby was home, and she was able to remember it and process things in a more logical way than she would have if she were younger. While she struggled with some jealousy the same way all big siblings do, she also was able to talk things out with me and truly understand when the baby needed me and she had to wait for something she wanted me to do. This was a huge help to me, allowing me to meet both my daughters’ needs without having it get too crazy before I could accommodate everyone’s needs and desires.
Second, Zinashi is a true help with the baby, and she takes pride in that. She loves being big enough to help out, and when I give her jobs to do, more often than not, she says yes and does it gladly. Now that Elvie has been through surgery and she’s easier to position when being held, Zinashi is able to hold her on her lap on her own, and she is incredibly proud of that. Elvie loves it when her big sister holds her, and I am often able to get small tasks done uninterrupted because of this, knowing that the baby is safe in her big sister’s arms.
Third, they adore each other. Elvie is in awe of everything that Zinashi can do, and no one can make her laugh quite like her big sister can. She wants to do whatever Zinashi does and go wherever Zinashi goes. Zinashi thinks that Elvie is the cutest baby that ever lived, and she not only loves to make her laugh, but has taken it upon herself to sing Elvie to sleep when we are on the bus at naptime. They enjoy one another, but because of the larger age gap, there’s not as much sibling rivalry. That’s what I call a win-win.
While some are lucky enough to choose the exact age gap they want, I think that most of us end up with age differences that are somewhat different from what we might have pictured. Whether the age gaps are smaller than anticipated or larger, what I’ve observed in my own family and in others is that the age difference that you end up with often is the one that is exactly right for your family.
If I were able to travel back in time and sit in on some of the age difference conversations I had with friends and with my husband, I would tell myself to stop thinking about it so much. Because the truth is that we love both of our kids, and they love each other, and it has indeed turned out to be perfect.